As airplanes go, we have seen many varieties over the years. Designs had to be streamlined in order to increase distance and improve fuel economy. The designs also had to provide increasing stability for longer flights, and to protect the people on board. I can understand design changes, and I know that they are necessary, but in the grand scheme of things, some of the different designs are not only strange, but downright humorous… and some were actually quite dangerous. Still, I guess everyone longs to design something new and different. Some of these planes may have had some purpose that I know nothing about, but I don’t think that many of them were very successful.
The B377PG, NASA’s Super Guppy Turbine Cargo Plane was first flown in 1980. It was nicknamed the “Pregnant Guppy” and was one of the most unique transports ever constructed. It was actually a modified Boeing 377 and it was the perfect hauler for those gigantic, weirdly shaped payloads that need to be transported cross-country in a hurry for some NASA project. It was originally commissioned by NASA to move the many components of the Apollo moon missions around. After the Apollo years, the Guppies were used extensively by the private sector for years after the program was cancelled. To me it looks like a giant Airstream Travel trailer, and at first sight, its funny shape made me laugh.
Another cargo plane that looked quite funny was the Short SC.7 Skyvan, which was nicknamed the “Flying Shoebox.” Manufactured by the Short Brothers in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the plane was a British 19-seat twin-turboprop aircraft. It is used for short-haul freight and skydiving. Its first flight was in January 1963. If you ask me, it barely looks like this plane could fly, but apparently it did so, quite well.
And then, there was the Caproni Ca.60 Transaereo, also known as “Capronissimo” and Noviplano Transaereo. On March 4, 1921 it tried to take off from Lake Maggiore with its nine, 30-meter-long wings. It barely seemed possible that this huge plane could win against gravity. It was similar in theme to crafts built by Icarus and Leonardo, who had already overcome gravity with hot air balloons, airships, and biplanes. I couldn’t imagine why they thought that such a monstrosity could fly, let alone land in one piece, nevertheless, Engineer Gianni Caproni, wanted to prove that he could do it. So, with eight American 400-hp engines, 750 square meters of wings and 23 of fuselage, his gigantic hydroplane was over nine meters tall and weighed over 15,000 kilos when empty. It was designed to carry one hundred people across the Atlantic. The only problem was that the plane was simply too heave to manage a safe takeoff, much less a landing. The huge machine, with former military aviator Federico Semprini in the cabin, climbed too much in an effort to pull away from the flat waters of the lake and broke a few components, shattering Caproni’s dreams. I think it is very likely a good thing it never went further, because I’m not sure that such a frame could stand up to much windspeed.